What a sad state of affairs Manny Legace’s season has turned out to be. It wasn’t just the display of immaturity over the last week or the bad stretch of game in the last month. The true source of his demise actually goes back further than that, to the exact moment last season when he suffered that meniscus tear. Since then, the entire balance of Legace’s game has been upset, quite possibly marking the beginning of the end to his career.
I warned about Legace’s value dropping due to the ill effects of the meniscus injury, citing that his timing would be an issue. And even though he started off the season with four straight wins, it was only a matter of time before a pair of groin/hip injuries and a concussion would combine with the lingering effects from the meniscus injury to pull his game into a downward spiral. Injuries led to inconsistency and that led to his frustration boiling over in a penultimate game, which ironically came against his former team.
On the surface, Legace going on waivers may come as a big surprise. He’s still a valuable commodity for other NHL teams, right? Well, that may be the case, but regardless of his supposed value, the Blues organization felt they could afford to make the move thanks to their prized prospects Chris Holt, Ben Bishop and even Jake Allen. Besides, they went out and signed Predators outcast Chris Mason just in case something like this would go down with Legace.
Since losing his first two games in January, Mason has only allowed nine goals over the last eight games. He led the Blues to a 5-1-2 run in that stretch and has re-claimed a starting job on a team fighting for the playoffs. It’s funny how things work, as Mason’s value is quite enticing and for good reason. There’s no counting him or the Blues out when it comes to the playoff push in the Western Conference, so if the Blues can continue to gain momentum, look for Mason to continue posting great statistics down the stretch.
So with all of these outside forces working against Legace, it actually comes as no surprise that he was placed on waivers. Let’s face it, former NHL goalie John Davidson won’t condone that type of attitude or weak play from a veteran starter, especially when the team is trying to make the playoffs. Legace’s antics were simple unacceptable.
“He has not had a good season,” Blues president John Davidson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week. “We just need him to find his game. I’m hoping if he clears waivers, he will go to Peoria and really play well - and I sincerely mean that. And if he does play well, he’ll have a chance at playing here or somewhere else.”
Davidson understands the goalie’s psyche, so I think what he did was right for the team and for the organization as a whole. And you know what? I think it was right for Legace as well.
He needs to take the next few months to re-evaluate his game and do what other veteran goalies have had to do – demolish and rebuild their game from the ground up. Legace plays way too deep in his crease and until he changes that aspect of his game, he will never again be a legitimate NHL goalie. The deep positioning style died with Felix Potvin, so it’s time for him to move on before it gets any worse. The other major factor working against him is the knees, which is something he unfortunately can’t fix or avoid.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think Legace is capable of playing another 2-3 seasons, but he’d be more effective if he transformed his game over the summer. I don’t see a team taking a chance on him unless scouts feel that his game has been refined and the injuries are a thing of the past. It’s sad to talk about injuries ruining a goalie’s career, but part of the reason why Legace’s attitude soured so fast was his inconsistent play thanks to all of those nagging injuries. The other part was simply bad timing and at times, weak positioning and a total lack of focus.
You have to feel bad for Legace because no starting goalie (except Tim Thomas) would be happy with a situation where the backup is making more money, especially when the team declines a contract extension before the season begins. Legace didn’t enjoy dealing with all of those things, especially the perception that he was turning into a negative impact in the locker room. He’s a victim of circumstance, a friendly guy turned sour due to a tough situation.
Still, St. Louis has the confidence to depend more on their youngsters, so this could be a classic case of “out with the old and in with the new” for the Blues. Legace’s actions just gave them an easy way out. Regardless, Chris Holt is a quality prospect to keep an eye on. His goals-against average in the AHL is a miniscule 1.70 in 13 total games (7-5-0) and his size is impressive at 6-foot-3, 221 pounds. The kid will get a chance this season and rightly so.
But simply put, Legace wore out his welcome and his lack of enthusiasm and effort was the final straw. Sometimes when nobody understands why you’re struggle on the ice, it all boils over emotionally, especially with Legace, a guy that wears his emotions on his sleeve. When nobody sees you’re trying hard, sometimes it’s just tough to keep trying.
“I’ll go to Peoria and help them try to win a cup down there,” said Legace. “Helping out [Ben Bishop] down there will be great. Maybe we can bing and bang and win a championship. I don’t care where you are …if you can win a championship, it’s going to be fun. That’s where my head has to be…just go down there and play hard and let the chips fall where they may. Then I’ll go to free agency and see how that goes. I just want to get my game back going.”
Now Legace has the chance to do just that. If he turns this negative situation into a positive by refining his game and using it as a motivating factor to work HARD over the summer, he’ll get picked up by another team. But if teams like the Avalanche passed on claiming him, then the future doesn’t look too bright. Honestly, when it comes to a fantasy outlook, I wouldn’t touch Legace with a ten-foot pole. Those evil meniscus injuries can plague goalies for years and years down the line - and Legace is walking, I mean hobbling, proof of that.